10 Lessons in 10 Years

Ryand and sara

Today I celebrate my 10th wedding anniversary. When I see that number on the screen, I think, “Wow, it’s only been 10 years?” Because it feels like I’ve known my husband forever.  I can’t help but get nostalgic remembering our younger selves, our eagerness at setting up house, those early fights as we adjusted to living together, our joys, our sorrows. In honor of my anniversary, here are 10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Marriage.

  1. Be willing to compromise. And then gradually move all his stuff to the basement. It’s sneaky, I know, but is his commemorative bobble head of Wayne Gretsky (or whomever is hot in sports right now) going to go with your carefully coordinated oasis of muted blues and soothing browns? I think not. When he asks, you can always say the plastic bobbing head and its gap-toothed grin gave you nightmares.
  2. Timing is everything. Don’t tell your husband you’re pregnant after returning home from the ER at 3 in the morning. Just don’t. You won’t get the reaction you had hoped for, and there’ll be hard feelings all around. Wait until he’s conscious and has had his first cup of coffee. It’ll still be a shock, but at least he won’t stare at you blankly and then roll over and go back to sleep.
  3. Listen. Be prepared to hear about all the indignities he suffered with the children. Your indignities pale in comparison to the horrors he’ll experience as a new father. Never mind what your children did to your body, no. Hand a naked baby to your husband and then have your little bundle poop all over him, well, you’ll never hear the end of it.
  4. Make time for each other. We go out by ourselves at least once a month. If our parents can’t watch the children, we hire someone who we’ve thoroughly researched to care for our angels. Alright! Let’s be honest. There were days we’d have let rabid wolves watch the kids just for an hour of two of peace, days when we kicked the kids out of the car at grandma’s curb and kept rolling as our tires squealed down the street.
  5. Take plenty of naps. Or whatever you want to call it. We tell the children we’re tired and going to take a nap. Some parents say they have to pay bills or fold laundry. Others say they are going to be on the phone with Santa, so they’d better be good and leave them alone. Who am I kidding? That’s us. We’ve used all those excuses (and more) to carve out some time for intimacy. It’s important. Do what you must to ensure it happens.
  6. Lock your door. See number 5. Saying you’ll be on the phone with Santa is too big a temptation, and little ones get curious. Enough said.
  7.  Guilt has no place in a marriage.  Those early days in our marriage,  my husband picked up a lot of slack as I ran between meetings, classes and rehearsals. There were times  I felt guilty for leaving him alone with a four year old and a newborn, but the guilt fades each summer I’m off of work and home with them for three months.  Do you know how many hours that is over 13 years? Neither do I because all of my cognitive functions have been turned to mush after being home with them for all that time. SAHM, I don’t know how you do it, but bless you.
  8. Laugh with each other. Married life is tough enough but without a sense of humor, you won’t be able to stop yourself from strangling him when he retells the story about how the deadly combination of frozen car windows and a bout of your flatulence nearly killed him and the kids on the highway. For the last time, I had a stomach bug! You don’t smell all rosy when you’re sick, and no, the baby wasn’t sick when she pooped on you either. Baby poop looks like that. They poop all the time! She’s nine, now, so let it go!
  9. Make plans for the future. Right now our plans include what we’d want brought to us in prison if the teenager mouths off at us again and one of us snaps. Hey, it keeps us grounded, and thanks to episodes of Orange is the New Black, we’ve got a good idea of what to ask for. (Calm down, all you Nervous Nellies. We love our eldest and would never harm her. But seriously, which do you think would be better in her old room: a home gym or a writing lair?)
  10. Say “I love you” at least once a day. Usually one of us grunts it as we fall into bed after a long day of working and taking care of the children. As we roll onto our backs and stare into the darkness, our hands clutched together in sheer exhaustion, it’s comforting to know we have each other as we face a new day.

Happy Anniversary, darling! Lets hope the next ten go more slowly so we can enjoy every minute of it! 

Enter for a chance to win a signed copy of Little White Lies. In honor of my anniversary, the raffle  starts today and goes through June 25th.
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©Sara Ackerman, 2016

The Gift of Service

 

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I have never been easy as a guest in someone’s home, much preferring my autonomy to the reciprocal obligations required between host and guest. Small talk and genial pleasantries are not my forte, and often, I come across as rude or ungrateful when in reality I covet my freedom and do not wish to be a burden.

However, in my independence, I have demonstrated a certain arrogance, a selfish disregard for the social contract which is created when I’ve been welcomed into another’s home or private space. By preserving my autonomy, I have lessened the import of being a guest.

Guest is not synonymous with dependence. Rather, it is the ability to trust others and to accept care. It requires a gracious spirit to allow others to serve. While being a guest is humbling, it is also empowering, for receiving the gift of service is as great a gift as giving it. 

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

Leaving

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They told her leaving him would show the world what she was–

a quitter

uncommitted

weak-willed

shallow

hysterical

illogical

a woman ruled by cowardice.

What they couldn’t understand was that walking away can be the bravest act of all. 

©Sara Ackerman, 2016

The Gypsy Curse Part 3

One week later, Amelia and her sisters were in the fields near the forest playing hide and seek, and she had been it for the last quarter of an hour. She hated being it because she could never find anyone. Five minutes of half-hearted searching later, she gave up, too bored to continue.  With an unladylike plop, she slumped to the ground and leaned  on a fallen log, grateful the sun was shining. The gentle rays helped chase away the nagging fear  plaguing her all week. Flinging an arm over her eyes, she slipped into drowsy relaxation.

The warmth disappeared, and the field darkened. A shiver stole up her spine, and she rolled over, curling  on her side to continue her rest. “Oh, bother. Go away clouds. I am trying to sleep,” she muttered. The clouds, alas, were immovable.  She cracked open an eye to investigate but a looming shadow obscured her vision. It blocked the sun and inspired a grim sort of dread which beat a steady rhythm in her head. The shadow advanced, and two gnarled, weathered talons outstretched to grab her.  She opened her mouth and screamed.

The figure moved and her eyes, now accustomed to the unnatural twilight, discerned an old woman dressed in a faded blue dress with a wide purple velvet sash tied in the middle. A colorful shawl draped over her stooped shoulders and a scarf wrapped round her head, neatly framing her wild mane of silvering hair.

“Are you one of my little liars?” she asked, her thick accent clipping each syllable until the words were nothing more than a litany of jagged consonants firing in her mind.

“You’re supposed to be gone! My papa told you to leave a week ago.”

The old woman cackled and rubbed her hands together. “You know who I am. Good.”

She shrank against the log and wrapped her arms about her knees.

“I see you are afraid. That is also good.”

“What do you want with me?” she whispered.

“Not just you, little girl. I also want your sisters, too.” A delighted smile cracked her tanned, wizened  visage, but her gap-toothed smile did nothing to ease her fear.

“They’re not here.”

“They’ll come. I saw them hiding not too far away from here.”

From the forest  came a loud cracking of branches alerting her to the truth of the old woman’s statement. Her two sisters emerged from the forest and ran to her, Beatrice yelling at the top of her lungs, “Amelia! We’re coming!”

Spying the old woman, they skidded to a halt and in wary apprehension, looked at her and the old woman. Evie whimpered and ran to huddle beside Amelia while Beatrice, ever the eldest, stood  in front of her sisters. Drawing herself up to her full height, she demanded,“Who are you and what do you want with my sister?”

Amelia admired her sister’s bravado, for she saw what it cost her. Small hands clutched her skirts in a white-knuckled death grip and the usual rosy sheen which graced her young face  had been leeched of color.

“I am just an old woman passing through the forest.”

Beatrice assessed the old woman, taking in her faded garments and weathered face. “You’re a gypsy!” With her chin held high, she waved her hand in the air in a blatant act of dismissal. “Be gone!  My father has evicted  your kind for your treachery against his hospitality!”

“Our treachery, Lady Beatrice?” The old woman whispered, venom lacing each word. She advanced on the girls, pinning them against the fallen log. Soon, her wrinkled face was looming over Beatrice’s, her eyes dark and angry. “Don’t you mean yours?”

“How do you know my name?” Beatrice stammered, her eyes darting  from the old woman to her sisters behind her. Having reached the end of her courage, she held out her hand to Amelia and grasped it in her own. She pulled Beatrice down with a plunk to sit beside her.

“I knew we wouldn’t get away with it, Bea.”

The old woman had heard, and she nodded.”I know all about you three and what you did last week.”

Amelia’s lower lip trembled and she asked, “What are you going to do to us?” Because there had to be a consequence. There was always a consequence.

“I intend to make it right.” The old woman raised her arms and the clearing stilled. The bird song quieted and the gentle wind which had been rustling the leaves and feathering the grass ceased.  A terrible light gleamed from the gypsy woman’s aged eyes.

“For your lie, an innocent man was tried and found guilty of a crime he did not commit.” The once dormant wind rose and whipped through the clearing, slashing her silvered hair against her face and howling its outrage as it tore across the grass and through the tree grove. Clouds rolled up and over each other, ripping apart the sky with its upheaval.

“It was you who were too weak to tell the truth, and have forever condemned an innocent to life far from his family!” She pointed a gnarled finger at the three sisters. “And so, I curse you.”

When the last of the three had been cursed, the old woman’s arms dropped. Revenge faded from her eyes only to be replaced with sad resignation. The winds died and the clouds sped across the sky. Light flooded the clearing, but the girls could not see. Fear clouded their vision and possessed their minds.

The old woman raised her right hand and made the sign of the cross, a sad smile on her face. “Te aves yertime mander tai te yertil tut o Del.”* With a final look at the three sisters, the old gypsy woman walked to  the woods and vanished.

 

*I forgive you and may God forgive you as I do.

© Sara Ackerman 2016

Stories from the trenches: In which I almost become someone’s tia (Part 3)

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Maria has me at her mercy. I’m at her home surrounded by her family with no where to go for several hours. Knowing that her time is running out, Maria chooses a risky but potentially successful plan. But to keep me sitting in one spot, she has to deploy a classic maneuver that keeps my stationary for some time. That’s right. She uses the Sleeping Baby Misdirection that has me couch bound until someone comes and gets her, or she wakes up. I am stuck.

Stage 3: The “I’m going to introduce you whether you like it or not” maneuver After much consideration, I’ve decided to make a brief appearance at the birthday party. I’ve come prepared with my early-departure excuse and I’ve already eaten so I can comfortably snack without feeling rude for refusing to eat dinner.

When I arrive, Maria seats me in the living room and hands me a baby. “You like babies, yes? You watch her for us, maestra, while she sleeps” commands Maria. “We have cooking to do and she will be in the way.” Relieved to avoid another interrogation, I sit back with the baby and watch the other children playing.

Several minutes later, Maria walks back into the room with the man from the picture in tow. “Maestra, this is Alfonso,” she says innocently. “Remember we were talking about him the other day?” Maria smiles sweetly and turns to Alfonso, “This is Maestra Sara, Alfonso. She wants to get married one day and have babies just like you do.” I begin to panic and look anxiously towards the exits, ready to run.

Maria smiles at both of us, shoos Alfonso to the seat near mine and nonchalantly says, “I’ll just leave you two to talk. Why don’t you give me the baby, Maestra?” I narrow my eyes and ask, “I thought you wanted me to watch her for you? You said you were too busy to watch her.” Fortunately she has the good grace to blush before saying on a tiny laugh, “Oh, ah, I’ll just put her in the crib. She’ll sleep better there.” Maria grabs the baby and leaves the room for the two of us to ‘talk.’

An awkward silence descends. Neither of us wishes to talk having both been thrown together by the force of nature named Maria. Sighing, I apologize to him for the misunderstanding and assure him that I am not looking for a spouse or babies anytime soon. He visibly relaxes. Standing, I gather my coat and purse and walk to the kitchen, debating what I should say.

To come right out and say I don’t want to marry her brother would be the right thing to do; however, knowing Maria, she would just find someone else and the cycle would continue. No, I needed to discourage her without encouraging future set-ups. “Maria, I appreciate the thought but I really don’t want to marry any man,” I say significantly. Her eyes cloud over in confusion for a moment before she nods in understanding. “Oh, I’m so sorry maestra,” she stammers. “I didn’t know…”

Though my conscience twinges a bit at having lied, at least I walked out of that party without a fiancé. Plus I squelched any future attempts at matchmaking by my persistent but well-meaning families.

That’s what could have happened, but it didn’t. How would you have gotten out of a situation like this? Send me your endings and I’ll repost the favorite!

Stories from the trenches: In which I almost become someone’s tia (Part 2)

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As my attempts to evade the ever persistent Maria succeed, she becomes sneakier, employing her ultimate weapon to break apart my resistance to her grand plans for a white wedding between me and her brother–she sends in her children.

Stage 2: The Invitation

Maria the matchmaker is at it again. This time, I’ve been invited to her granddaughter’s first birthday. It’s a family affair and Esperanza, Maria’s 16 year old daughter, has told me that everyone will be there. Including her uncle Alfonso.

“He’s single, maestra,” Esperanza tells me innocently one day after class. “He’s single and very good looking.” She tries to wink at me but only manages to blink her eyes twice like an owl. Blink, blink. Smile.

“Thank you, Esperanza, for the invitation,” I say graciously, even though I want nothing more than to tell her what she can do with her mother’s invitation. After all, I remind myself, it’s not Esperanza’s fault that her mother is being so insistent. She is an innocent bystander in this whole messy affair. Because she is waiting expectantly for an answer, I hedge by saying, “I will consider going.”

Smiling after successfully delivering her message, Esperanza gathers her books and begins to leave class.

“Maestra?” she asks halfway out the door, turning so she can look at me behind her where I sit.

“Yes, Esperanza?”

She giggles and says with a smirk, “See you later….auntie.” Esperanza walks out the door, laughing, while I feel the beginning of a migraine forming.

Sigh. It seems that my theory about Esperanza’s innocence in this little matter might be mistaken after all.

I stare at the invitation in my hand and ponder Maria’s tactics. Even when she’s not here, Maria has managed to best me. I concede this round to her.

Maria 1, me 1.

Head Hopping

As a new writer, I have received a lot of advice about head hopping, the practice of switching POV within a scene to better understand character emotions, ideas, motives, etc. I certainly have my on POV when it comes to head hopping, both as a reader and an author, but what do you think? Does it confuse you as a reader to have authors switch POV within a scene? Do you even care? Take my poll and let me know what you think, and then I’ll tell you my opinion on this contentious topic.